Suhani Pittie now dreams beyond jewellery and gives a new spin to silver, finds Sangeetha Devi Dundoo
Suhani paces a few steps at the courtyard of the 200-year-old Pittie mansion, glancing down at the tiles and tells us, “Everything in this house has a story; everything speaks of art. Look at these tiles, the colour combinations and textures… some thought process has gone into it. It’s tough for anyone who lives in this house to not be artistically inclined.” A few minutes ago, we had spent a few puzzled moments trying to figure out our way around the Pittie mansion. “I am still discovering the 70-room house that has five cows and three wells. When I came here, I thought I am a thin person and can easily get lost here. Yesterday, my husband Stouvant showed me a new place that I hadn’t seen before,” laughs Suhani. We settle down for a chat, over some mint lemonade, still puzzled… puzzled where the air conditioner is placed in the drawing room next to the courtyard.
In the last four years, Suhani has grown out of the shadows of her famous sister (fashion designer Anamika Khanna) and her famous mother-in-law (fashion designer Vinita Pittie). She now has her jewellery collection selling from 15 stores across the country, has showcased her work at fashion weeks in India and in Milan and is ready to launch her store, Suhani Pittie, in Banjara Hills. “I was averse to using my name for the brand. But Stouvant, who is also my business partner, made me understand that people know my collections with my name and I should use my name for the brand.”
Her new venture, will present silver like never before, she promises. How about table weights, candle stands, bowls, dinner sets and the works with intricate texturing? Suhani has used varied combos — silver and wood, silver and glass, silver and jute and more. But then, her USP has always been to make unique pieces. “For example, look at my earrings. It’s hand painted rose. Both the young and the old pick up my jewellery pieces and no two sets are alike. In India, jewels are treated as just that: jewels. But for me, a piece of my jewellery is my painting. I am not a silversmith but a jewellery artist,” she explains.
The artist in her shone bright when she collaborated with artist Vaikuntam for the art show Vistaar in Delhi in 2007. “The curator had invited 18 designers and 18 artists and I was privileged that Vaikuntam sir agreed to work with a crazy person like me. His work was rural and rooted in tradition, like the paintings of the Telangana women. And my work had wood, jute and roughly cut coloured stones. I saw his paintings, understood his work and then did my pieces. They turned out well and were sold out,” she recalls.
In the same year, she debuted at the Miami Fashion Week with her collection Waltz in the Moonbeam. “The Miami Fashion Week made it possible for us to have an interesting collaboration with Museum of Arts and Design, New York. They liked our work and asked us to supply collections to their museum store,” she says. “The experience at Miami made me and Stouvant suddenly grow up. We were two 26-year-olds who had meticulously got the paper work and the jewellery ready. Being able to sell from the museum was like a pat on my back. We knew we are on the right track. We saw the works of designers from Spain, Northern Europe and India and realised we still have a long way to go. You get a thrust that you have to be super.”
Suhani insists the growth so far has not been too easy. “Just because my sister and mom-in-law are designers, nothing has come easily to me. I haven’t contributed in any way to their success and I cannot enjoy the fruits of their success. When I first applied to India Fashion Week, I was rejected because I hadn’t done enough work. I was supplying only to three stores and you have to be supplying to at least seven to eight designer stores to be in. My sister was on the board but I didn’t use her influence. I went back, did more work, applied the following year and I was on.”
The investment for her store, she insists, came from a bank loan. “Me and Stouvant are two struggling entrepreneurs and are happy to work like donkeys. We have a single dream — to make our company the number one silver jewellery company in the world. If I can, I will even design a silver car!” And talking of support from the family, she says, “Just the fact that they re giving us so much freedom is enough to motivate us.”
Growing up in Kolkata with three sisters (‘Anamika was a decade older to me and my second sister was seven years older’) helped her hone her creative instincts. “There were always expectations from me since I was a designer’s sister. Even as a child, I would never wear her clothes, though I was expected to be well turned out always. I’m comfortable with tunics and frocks off the street like this one. I picked up this pink frock from Colaba, Mumbai, for Rs. 400.”
As she talks nineteen to the dozen, we ask her about the mystery of the unseen air conditioner before we leave, “Oh, that’s in the adjacent room and the vents are directed towards this room, since there is no provision here. We don’t tamper with the heritage building,” she says. The heritage building has been in safe hands and continues to be.